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Title: Challenges at the Frontiers of Matter and Energy: Transformative Opportunities for Discovery Science

FIVE TRANSFORMATIVE OPPORTUNITIES FOR DISCOVERY SCIENCE As a result of this effort, it has become clear that the progress made to date on the five Grand Challenges has created a springboard for seizing five new Transformative Opportunities that have the potential to further transform key technologies involving matter and energy. These five new Transformative Opportunities and the evidence supporting them are discussed in this new report, “Challenges at the Frontiers of Matter and Energy: Transformative Opportunities for Discovery Science.” Mastering Hierarchical Architectures and Beyond-Equilibrium Matter Complex materials and chemical processes transmute matter and energy, for example from CO2 and water to chemical fuel in photosynthesis, from visible light to electricity in solar cells and from electricity to light in light emitting diodes (LEDs) Such functionality requires complex assemblies of heterogeneous materials in hierarchical architectures that display time-dependent away-from-equilibrium behaviors. Much of the foundation of our understanding of such transformations however, is based on monolithic single- phase materials operating at or near thermodynamic equilibrium. The emergent functionalities enabling next-generation disruptive energy technologies require mastering the design, synthesis, and control of complex hierarchical materials employing dynamic far-from-equilibrium behavior. A key guide in this pursuit is nature, for biological systems prove the powermore » of hierarchical assembly and far- from-equilibrium behavior. The challenges here are many: a description of the functionality of hierarchical assemblies in terms of their constituent parts, a blueprint of atomic and molecular positions for each constituent part, and a synthesis strategy for (a) placing the atoms and molecules in the proper positions for the component parts and (b) arranging the component parts into the required hierarchical structure. Targeted functionality will open the door to significant advances in the harvesting, transforming (e.g., reducing CO2, splitting water, and fixing nitrogen), storing, and use of energy to create new materials, manufacturing processes, and technologies—the lifeblood of human societies and economic growth. Beyond Ideal Materials and Systems: Understanding the Critical Roles of Heterogeneity, Interfaces, and Disorder Real materials, both natural ones and those we engineer, are usually a complex mixture of compositional and structural heterogeneities, interfaces, and disorder across all spatial and temporal scales. It is the fluctuations and disorderly states of these heterogeneities and interfaces that often determine the system’s properties and functionality. Much of our fundamental scientific knowledge is based on “ideal” systems, meaning materials that are observed in “frozen” states or represented by spatially or temporally averaged states. Too often, this approach has yielded overly simplistic models that hide important nuances and do not capture the complex behaviors of materials under realistic conditions. These behaviors drive vital chemical transformations such as catalysis, which initiates most industrial manufacturing processes, and friction and corrosion, the parasitic effects of which cost the U.S. economy billions of dollars annually. Expanding our scientific knowledge from the relative simplicity of ideal, perfectly ordered, or structurally averaged materials to the true complexity of real-world heterogeneities, interfaces, and disorder should enable us to realize enormous benefits in the materials and chemical sciences, which translates to the energy sciences, including solar and nuclear power, hydraulic fracturing, power conversion, airframes, and batteries. Harnessing Coherence in Light and Matter Quantum coherence in light and matter is a measure of the extent to which a wave field vibrates in unison with itself at neighboring points in space and time. Although this phenomenon is expressed at the atomic and electronic scales, it can dominate the macroscopic properties of materials and chemical reactions such as superconductivity and efficient photosynthesis. In recent years, enormous progress has been made in recognizing, manipulating, and exploiting quantum coherence. This progress has already elucidated the role that symmetry plays in protecting coherence in key materials, taught us how to use light to manipulate atoms and molecules, and provided us with increasingly sophisticated techniques for controlling and probing the charges and spins of quantum coherent systems. With the arrival of new sources of coherent light and electron beams, thanks in large part to investments by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Basic Energy Sciences (BES), there is now an opportunity to engineer coherence in heterostructures that incorporate multiple types of materials and to control complex, multistep chemical transformations. This approach will pave the way for quantum information processing and next-generation photovoltaic cells and sensors. Revolutionary Advances in Models, Mathematics, Algorithms, Data, and Computing Science today is benefiting from a convergence of theoretical, mathematical, computational, and experimental capabilities that put us on the brink of greatly accelerating our ability to predict, synthesize, and control new materials and chemical processes, and to understand the complexities of matter across a range of scales. Imagine being able to chart a path through a vast sea of possible new materials to find a select few with desired properties. Instead of the time-honored forward approach, in which materials with desired properties are found through either trial-and-error experiments or lucky accidents, we have the opportunity to inversely design and create new materials that possess the properties we desire. The traditional approach has allowed us to make only a tiny fraction of all the materials that are theoretically possible. The inverse design approach, through the harmonious convergence of theoretical, mathematical, computational, and experimental capabilities, could usher in a virtual cornucopia of new materials with functionalities far beyond what nature can provide. Similarly, enhanced mathematical and computational capabilities significantly enhance our ability to extract physical and chemical insights from vastly larger data streams gathered during multimodal and multidimensional experiments using advanced characterization facilities. Exploiting Transformative Advances in Imaging Capabilities across Multiple Scales Historically, improvements in imaging capabilities have always resulted in improved understanding of scientific phenomena. A prime challenge today is finding ways to reconstruct raw data, obtained by probing and mapping matter across multiple scales, into analyzable images. BES investments in new and improved imaging facilities, most notably synchrotron x-ray sources, free-electron lasers, electron microscopes, and neutron sources, have greatly advanced our powers of observation, as have substantial improvements in laboratory- scale technologies. Furthermore, BES is now planning or actively discussing exciting new capabilities. Taken together, these advances in imaging capabilities provide an opportunity to expand our ability to observe and study matter from the 3D spatial perspectives of today to true “4D” spatially and temporally resolved maps of dynamics that allow quantitative predictions of time-dependent material properties and chemical processes. The knowledge gained will impact data storage, catalyst design, drug delivery, structural materials, and medical implants, to name just a few key technologies. ENABLING SUCCESS Seizing each of these five Transformative Opportunities, as well as accelerating further progress on Grand Challenge research, will require specific, targeted investments from BES in the areas of synthesis, meaning the ability to make the materials and architectures that are envisioned; instrumentation and tools, a category that includes theory and computation; and human capital, the most important asset for advancing the Grand Challenges and Transformative Opportunities. While “Challenges at the Frontiers of Matter and Energy: Transformative Opportunities for Discovery Science” could be viewed as a sequel to the original Grand Challenges report, it breaks much new ground in its assessment of the scientific landscape today versus the scientific landscape just a few years ago. In the original Grand Challenges report, it was noted that if the five Grand Challenges were met, our ability to direct matter and energy would be measured only by the limits of human imagination. This new report shows that, prodded by those challenges, the scientific community is positioned today to seize new opportunities whose impacts promise to be transformative for science and society, as well as dramatically accelerate progress in the pursuit of the original Grand Challenges.« less
 [1] ;  [2] ;  [3] ;  [4] ;  [5]
  1. Univ. of California, Irvine, CA (United States)
  2. Los Alamos National Lab. (LANL), Los Alamos, NM (United States)
  3. Argonne National Lab. (ANL), Argonne, IL (United States); University of Illinois, Chicago
  4. Univ. of California, Berkeley, CA (United States)
  5. Northwestern Univ., Evanston, IL (United States)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Resource Type:
Program Document
Research Org:
USDOE Office of Science (SC) (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Science (SC), Basic Energy Sciences (BES) (SC-22)
Country of Publication:
United States